Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Barcelona to Abu Dhabi: Safaga to Luxor

We docked in an industrial port in Sfaga, no getting off and wandering around. We have breakfast in our room, beautiful, quick and easy. We have to wait a while until the Egyptians have examined and stamped our passports.

All departing passengers gather in the Nautica Lounge – we are number 20, one of the last to go. We go through exit procedures (facial scan, Egyptian inspection) and discover we are on a small bus, a group of only eight people, for the next two days. We don’t know any of them, but we feel very fortunate to be with a very small group. We are happily surprised. We had thought we might be on a large bus with coughing and sneezing people and need to mask.

This is a very popular location. There are all kinds of trips going out, to various locations for various amounts of time. The buses are all lined up, and the immigration center we all have to go through is on the far left. 

Another happy surprise is that the weather is cool on the ship, and cool in the morning, cool enough to need a scarf. (This night, for dinner, I will need a sweater over my dress.) This is a happy surprise. I really hate being too hot.

We are on a two day trip, today and tomorrow with an overnight in Luxor.

Almost immediately, Merv, our guide, has us introduce ourselves. We are traveling with Steve and Becky from Austin, Dave and Patricia, from Toronto, and Tom and Deb from Vancouver. We have a long drive, through the stark mountain area of Egypt (!) and then along the luscious, fertile valley of the Nile, where I take almost all my photos. Steve and AdventureMan discover they have lived just miles from one another. All our fellow passengers are well-traveled. Becky has some mobility issues, but does a great job and never complains. 

When you think of Egypt, do you think of mountains? I never did. This first stretch we cover is full of desert and stark mountains, and I envision Moses, shepherding for his father-in-law and his encounter with the great I Am, in a bush that burned and was not consumed. I could imagine long treks with the sheep to find enough to eat, and long days to think about things.

My Arab friends always laughed when I would tell them their countries reminded me of growing up in Alaska, but there are wide open stretches that go on forever and harsh climates. In Alaska, you dress for the cold and stay inside through the worst of it; in the Middle East, you dress for the heat and stay inside for the worst of it, and you spend as much time as you can outdoors when temperatures are mild as you can. I am a big fan of dark skies and myriad stars, both Alaska and deserts provide food for my soul.

We make a stop at a rest stop along the way. We were supposed to travel in a caravan, with security, for our protection, but we were last to leave and our smaller bus did not have onboard facilities. It was really nice being able to get out and walk around, but it cost us in terms of convenience later on. Because we had lost our convoy, the police kept stopping us and questioning our credentials. They found us a curiosity. Finally, at one point, a police van led us several miles and vouched for our right of passage. It was an interesting experience. Our tour guide was relentlessly aggressive with the police, and rather than offending them, they were respectful to her.

Our tour guide was a formidable woman, one of the senior tour guides in Egypt. Her assignment with us was her second to last career assignment; she is retiring. What I loved about having her as a guide was that she was so knowledgeable. She filled us in on politics, social issues, and current events, as we drove a couple hours through the rural areas en route to Luxor.

My geographical knowledge of Egypt was slight. Now I feel really stupid. I had kind of thought the Red Sea and the Nile were somehow related, but the Nile is inland from the Red Sea. The micro-climates inland are lush and fertile.

You might see the donkey, but the reason I took this photo is that in our times living in Middle Eastern countries, we often saw rugs drying at service stations, especially those with car washes. The car washes get them nice and clean and have room to hang them so that they can dry. This is a nice, non-humid day, perfect for having carpets cleaned.

One of the things we learned is that Egypt has become more conservative with so many Egyptian men working as guest laborers in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. Egyptian women were at one time freer and better educated and had more civil rights than now. Husbands and fathers returning from stricter countries enforced stricter standards on their daughters, wives, and family members. Interesting, hmmm?

Here is our friendly police escort below:

This is one of my favorite photos – these gourds, which are some kind of pumpkin or squash, are in season, and there are piles of them everywhere! I remember in Tunisia when pumpkins came into season, they were huge! In the market, you bought them by the slice, huge, thick, meaty pumpkins, one of the essential ingredients in couscous.

I remember in Qatar when the Queen found laundry hanging on balconies inelegant and banned it; had a law passed which forbid it. And yet – where were the apartment dwellers to dry their laundry? Laundry continued on the balconies, and I never heard of anyone arrested for it.

Look at this wall, made of recycled broken pots and clay.

There is a line behind the waiting man of little tuk-tuk taxis, many with curtains, with one driver in front and passengers in the back.

We go directly to the hotel once we get to Luxor, check-in, go to our rooms and clean up, then have lunch, which is an international buffet. That means mostly western food. Eating western food in the heart of Egypt was a surprising disappointment to me. I totally get it. Luxor is a huge destination, and Egypt needs the tourist currency. Hotels have to please a large number of people. We were yearning for a good felafel.

The truth is, I did not have high hopes for this part of my cruise. The last time we were in Egypt, we were staying with friends, in Cairo, and we had great adventures. We have actually been to Luxor and Karnak before, and I discovered that I did not like going down into tombs; to me, they are very musty and give me a claustrophobic feeling. I stay above ground and take photos.

I had no idea we would have such a great tour guide; she is a blessing, so full of information and opinions. I don’t always have to agree with her to like her. I respect her! I also had no idea we would be spending so much time traveling through villages where people live their normal lives, and I love it. I’m finding in general the tourist experience is restrictive; we are at the mercy of other people’s schedules, other people’s timing, and where other people find it expedient to take us.

This group is different. The people with whom we are traveling in this small group are all very respectful of being on time and not going missing – in fact, if anyone is guilty of going missing, it is me. I tend to wander off. I make it a point to keep Merv informed about where I will be and to always be on time for departures. She gives me latitude. She allows me to wander – here there and everywhere. 🙂

And, as random as life is, I am so thankful not to be too hot. I am having a great time. I got to go through the Suez Canal! I am going back to Wadi Rum! I am going to sail past Saudi Arabia, and Sudan, and Eritrea, and Djibouti, and Yemen en route to Oman! I am a happy woman!

February 4, 2023 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Biography, Bureaucracy, Civility, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Photos, Political Issues, Random Musings, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , | Leave a comment

At Sea On U.S. Election Day

It is wonderful to be at sea in the turmoil of this year’s election. No one is talking about it onboard. What a relief.

We are told there are passengers from 39 nations on board, and crew from more nations. The entire day, we hear not a word about the American election.

The demographic is very much our age group. If anything, we are younger than most. Hard to say, but we see some very old but still adventuresome travelers, which gives us hope for our own future travels.

We were wide awake before seven. I got up and went to get some coffee. We can have it delivered to the room, but on these relaxed days at sea, we don’t like to commit to a time and it is just as easy to go get my own cup at the dedicated coffee bar. Actually, coffee is available in many places on the ship, and the smell of coffee early in the morning wafts everywhere.

We had decided to try The Grand Dining Room for breakfast, wanting to be less formal in a very formal environment.

The waiters are all white-jacketed and very pleasant. The menu is lovely – the tastiest item was smoked salmon with cream and capers and white onion, a great way to start the day. AdventureMan shared with me. The fruit platters were large enough for two; I cut most of mine into small pieces to stir into my virtuous oatmeal. Don’t you think smoked salmon is virtuous too? I think I prefer virtuous tasty smoked salmon to virtuous oatmeal. 

I am not complaining. I eat oatmeal every day at home. As a diabetic, it is great for keeping my blood sugar levels down. The Nautica had really nice oatmeal. And oatmeal just pales in comparison to all the lovely choices available for breakfast, all the beautiful pastries, croissants, breakfast breads, all the lovely foods with a lot of fats and sugars. Yes, even on a cruise, I pay attention. I will try not to whine again.

After breakfast, I grabbed some of my hotter weather clothes to iron – the compression bags puts some serious wrinkles into linen clothing.

The laundry room is much smaller than it appears on the ship map, but the iron was hot and efficient, and there were other passengers doing small loads of washing and drying. It is handy that it is all free. There is a laundry on board, and although we have laundry service I prefer doing my own laundry. We have a line in the shower where we can hang items we have hand laundered in the sink, and we found little detergent slips on Amazon that are very compact and efficient for hand laundry.

Then we walked the walking track, windy, invigorating; we have a lovely sunny day, warm enough but sometimes the wind was so strong it blew me into AdventureMan. I am happy we packed some of our cool-weather gear; when we are at sea, it can be windy and chilly. We checked out the gym, where AdventureMan found mats available for stretching as I look eagerly at the outside spa overlooking the bow of the ship. Heaven!

Back in the room, AdventureMan naps as we wait for the eleven o-clock enrichment lecture on the Origins of the First Crusade, in preparation for our time in Sicily and Israel. I am excited we will be going to Acre, the old Crusader stronghold, the day we arrive there.

 The lecture was well attended, probably four hundred or so passengers.

And then off we went to lunch at The Terrace restaurant.

We have found a table we love; sheltered by a small wall but still with a good view out over the aft of the ship. The Terrace is the ship’s buffet restaurant, except that it is not like a buffet where you dish up your own portions. There are very pleasant wait-staff every few feet who put food on your plate. You can say “a very small portion, please” or “could I have a little more of that?” and they will give you exactly what you wish. Don’t you love having choices?

It all feels so indulgent.

After lunch, I read while AdventureMan attended an afternoon lecture on How Man Learned to Navigate by the Stars, which he said turns out to be very complicated. Here is the truth, I will admit it, I needed a nap. I am not yet fully adapted to the time change. The little couch is a perfect size for me, and there is a soft sea-green throw I can cover up with and I am out like a light.

Dinner this night is at the Polo Grill, and, sadly, while these reservations are greatly coveted, by dinner time I don’t care. I don’t much want to dress up; I wish they would just deliver the dinner to the room, but this is part of the Oceania experience and so we dress and go up for dinner. The code is “country-club casual.” There are many interpretations of what that might mean. Here is ours.

I had a shrimp cocktail, tomato salad, and lobster, AdventureMan had the Lobster Bisque, Fois Gras en Croute, and the lobster, and we split a Creme Brûlée. The Creme Brûlée was very good.

It is a lovely kind of evening, and we enjoyed ourselves because we do this so rarely. The night is sweet and warm, the moon is full, and we can’t resist a lap or two around the walking track before we go to sleep.

January 20, 2023 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Bureaucracy, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Diet / Weight Loss, Eating Out, Food, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Wandering in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter

We return to Place Cataluñya. We got off at La Rambla (now you can see it in the daylight, above) and we need to figure out how to get to the Barcelona Cathedral, in the Gothic section, where I had thought we might have lunch.

We’ve had three years to research this trip and there aren’t enough hours or days to do all the things we want to do in Barcelona. And every now and then, something happens that no amount of research might have prepared you for.

When we got to the cathedral, there was some kind of elder celebration. There were big circles of people dancing, having a wonderful time. It was unexpected. It was joyful!

I love that this was some kind of church-sponsored activity, not for tourists, not for us, but for them! And they were having a wonderful time, dancing!

The famous Not-Roman arch . . . not even old, not antique, more a seasoning.

We wandered, then found a little tapas place, not one of the places we had so carefully researched, but at this point, we are REALLY HUNGRY. It is cute, and full of antique Spanish antique pieces. AdventureMan, full of courage, did the ordering. I had a plate of thin jambon and cheese and he had a bowl of sausages with bread. This is not the kind of food we normally eat, but this place had nothing resembling a vegetable. It did have olives.

The beer was Estrelle, really good and cold.

And here, AdventureMan ventured to have a glass of vermouth. I wish you could have seen his grimace! He did not like it at all. We were glad we hadn’t picked up a bottle from the Carrefour to take on the ship. It would have been wasted on us!

Now that we are not urgently hungry, we have time to look for the place where AdventureMan wants to have Barcelona chocolate with churros. He knows exactly where we need to go.

On the way, we run into a large demonstration for a separate Basque nation. It is peaceful. I guess we all have our divisions.

The Gothic quarter is fascinating, full of unexpected messages and art, so we wander, but with purpose and direction. We find Petritxol Barcelona, for hot chocolate and churros for AdventureMan. I had some kind of coffee and chocolate heaped with non-sweetened whipped cream, chocolate overload. We’ve done 10K steps today, 11K yesterday. I feel no guilt eating this decadent, lucious chocolate. Later, I only wish I had bought more chocolate to take with me.

The sidewalk and street surfaces are very hard and after the chocolate, we were ready to wander back to the hotel for an afternoon snooze. My husband is talking about taking it easy tomorrow – breakfast, packing up suitcases for delivery to ship, bus to ship, checking in, leaving again for lunch in Barcelonetta, then reboarding. I am eager to get unpacked, check the wrinkling of my clothes, and get acquainted with the spaces on the ship. 

The walk back is full of interesting sights, places, were we not so tired, we might linger, have a glass of wine and watch people, buy some local cheese.

A modern take on a Spanish penthouse. You can almost guess how elegant it must be inside.

I’ve worn the same navy striped linen dress for three days – with a T-shirt while we flew and a different t-shirt in Barcelona. It goes everywhere. It has no nationality. I had put on the green French terry dress to wear today, but when we went to breakfast, I discovered it was too hot, so I changed back into my linen dress. Very comfortable. Tied my navy hoodie around my shoulders, and was glad to have it riding on top of the bus. It is sunny, but cool in shade or breeze.

Back in the hotel by mid-afternoon for a rest, my husband snoozing. So far I have felt no effects from jet lag. I will try not to nap so I can sleep tonight. Sleeping on the overnight flight worked well for me. 

January 14, 2023 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Food, Photos, Political Issues, Restaurant, Travel, Weather | , , | Leave a comment

Mary Peltola, First Alaskan Native Elected to U.S. Congress

I am dancing for joy this morning as Yup’ic Mary Peltola is headed for Congress. This woman truly represents Alaskans; she is hard-working, and gritty, and her goal is to unite Alaskans. She was elected to fill a temporary position left by Don Young’s death, but will also be on the ballot in November running for the same position. The following article is from Associated Press:

Election 2022 Alaska

Democrat Mary Peltola smiles at supporters after delivering remarks at a fundraiser on Aug. 12, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. Peltola is in two races on the Aug. 16, 2022, ballot in Alaska. One is the U.S. House special election, a ranked choice election in which she is competing against Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich. The winner of that race will serve the remainder of the late U.S. Rep. Don Young’s term, which ends early next year. The other race she is in is the U.S. House primary. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Democrat Mary Peltola won the special election for Alaska’s only U.S. House seat on Wednesday, besting a field that included Republican Sarah Palin, who was seeking a political comeback in the state where she was once governor.

Peltola, who is Yup’ik and turned 49 on Wednesday, will become the first Alaska Native to serve in the House and the first woman to hold the seat. She will serve the remaining months of the late Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young’s term. Young held the seat for 49 years before his death in March.

“I’m honored and humbled by the support I have received from across Alaska,” Peltola said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing Don Young’s legacy of bipartisanship, serving all Alaskans and building support for Alaska’s interests in DC.”

Peltola’s victory, coming in Alaska’s first statewide ranked choice voting election, is a boon for Democrats, particularly coming off better-than-expected performances in special elections around the country this year following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. She will be the first Democrat to hold the seat since the late U.S. Rep. Nick Begich, who was seeking reelection in 1972 when his plane disappeared. Begich was later declared dead and Young in 1973 was elected to the seat.

Peltola ran as a coalition builder while her two Republican opponents — Palin and Begich’s grandson, also named Nick Begich — at times went after each other. Palin also railed against the ranked voting system, which was instituted by Alaska voters.

All three are candidates in the November general election, seeking a two-year House term, which would start in January.

The results came 15 days after the Aug. 16 election, in line with the deadline for state elections officials to receive absentee ballots mailed from outside the U.S. Ranked choice tabulations took place Wednesday after no candidate won more than 50% of the first choice votes. Peltola was in the lead heading into the tabulations.

Wednesday’s results were a disappointment for Palin, who was looking to make a political comeback 14 years after she was vaulted onto the national stage when John McCain selected her to be his running mate in the 2008 presidential election. In her run for the House seat, she had widespread name recognition and won the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.

After Peltola’s victory was announced, Palin slammed the ranked voting process as “crazy, convoluted, confusing.”

“Though we’re disappointed in this outcome, Alaskans know I’m the last one who’ll ever retreat,” Palin said in a statement.

During the campaign, critics questioned Palin’s commitment to Alaska, citing her decision to resign as governor in July 2009, partway through her term. Palin went on to become a conservative commentator on TV and appeared in reality television programs, among other pursuits.

Palin has insisted her commitment to Alaska never wavered and said ahead of the special election that she had “signed up for the long haul.”

Peltola, a former state lawmaker who most recently worked for a commission whose goal is to rebuild salmon resources on the Kuskokwim River, cast herself as a “regular” Alaskan. “I’m not a millionaire. I’m not an international celebrity,” she said.

Peltola has said she was hopeful that the new system would allow more moderate candidates to be elected.

During the campaign, she emphasized her support of abortion rights and said she wanted to elevate issues of ocean productivity and food security. Peltola said she got a boost after the June special primary when she won endorsements from Democrats and independents who had been in the race. She said she believed her positive messaging also resonated with voters.

“It’s been very attractive to a lot of people to have a message of working together and positivity and holding each other up and unity and as Americans none of us are each other’s enemy,” she said. “That is just a message that people really need to hear right now.”

Alaska voters in 2020 approved an elections process that replaced party primaries with open primaries. Under the new system, ranked voting is used in general elections.

Under ranked voting, ballots are counted in rounds. A candidate can win outright with more than 50% of the vote in the first round. If no one hits that threshold, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who chose that candidate as their top pick have their votes count for their next choice. Rounds continue until two candidates remain, and whoever has the most votes wins.

In Alaska, voters last backed a Democrat for president in 1964. But the state also has a history of rewarding candidates with an independent streak. The state has more registered unaffiliated voters than registered Republicans or Democrats combined.

September 1, 2022 Posted by | Alaska, Community, Cultural, Political Issues | 1 Comment

Ignoring the Law

I still get ads and info from Qatar sources. Living in Doha was such a vivid experience; experiencing the life of a country going from a sleepy little village to a mecca of skyscrapers was an astounding experience.

Qatar was full of contradictions, and the treatment of domestic workers, all imported from mostly Asian countries, was abysmal. While some few families treated their servants well, most did not. Contracts were not honored. Few had any time-off, most were on call 24 hours a day.

So this new law from the Ministry of Labor is . . . interesting. I find myself cynically wondering if this legislation will have any impact on how Qataris treat their servants, or if it is just national window dressing?

Not to be hitting unfairly on Qatar, it brings to mind the Florida Sunshine Laws. Florida passed some truly progressive laws suggesting that citizens of Florida had a right to know what their elected officials were doing, and how they made their decisions. I know – amazing stuff, even in a democracy. Florida took a lot of pride in those laws, and for many years, those laws were, to a great extent, observed and enforced.

Fast forward to Florida in the times of COVID and there is not a mention of the Florida Sunshine Laws. Some of the Sunshine Laws have been amended, to protect Law Enforcement and court officials. Most of the Sunshine Laws are now just ignored.

How does this manifest? How about the governor telling the Health Department not to publish health statistics, and telling them not to count people from out-of-state who come here and catch COVID. How about not allowing them to collect all the statistics, just every other week? How about not publishing the transmission rate on a daily or even weekly basis?

How about concealing how Universities recruit and select college presidents?

Publishing laws that look good on paper is one thing. Writing the laws so that they have teeth, and can be enforced, is another. Having a police force on the city and county level which will enforce laws as written is another. Having courts that will support the enforcement of the laws as written is another.

Having an independent legislature is another critical factor, we have to ask if the intention is for them to represent our will as citizens or if they exist to rubber-stamp gubernatorial stage-craft?

One of my friends at church mentioned yesterday that the state of Florida now has a holiday, Juneteenth, the explanation for which is not legally allowed to be taught in Florida schools, where any acknowledgment of the history and damages of enslavement might make young white school children uncomfortable.

When people behave badly towards one another, whether in Qatar or in the USA, maybe feeling uncomfortable is appropriate.

June 20, 2022 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, fraud, Law and Order, Leadership, Political Issues, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues | Leave a comment

NATO and Balalaikas

I could hear AdventureMan laughing as he read his book, and he called out to me “You’ve got to hear this!”

He’s reading an old Philip Kerr novel, Greeks Bearing Gifts, and he has come across this quote that is only funny in a gallows humor sort of way, considering current events in the Ukraine.

“Listen!” he begins to read:

Garlopis put the car in gear and we moved off smoothly. After a while he pressed a switch to operate the car’s electric window.

“Electric windows. Isn’t it wonderful? You look at a car like this and you think of America, and the future. When Americans talk about the American dream it’s not a dream about the past. That’s the difference between the American dream and a British one, a French one, or a Greek one. Ours is a dream that’s always about the past; and theirs is a dream that’s always about the future. A better tomorrow. Not only that, but I sincerely believe they’re prepared to guarantee that future for us all, by force of arms. Without NATO, we’d all be playing balalaikas.”

The story starts in 1957. It came out in 2018. It could not be more timely.

I’m having a hard time with this invasion, this invasion of the Ukraine to “defend the Fatherland.” Ukrainians say they are NOT Russians, the same way Iranians say they are not Arabs. They voted to be an independent country around the same time the Soviet Union collapsed. I heard the Ukrainian President say that “the Russian bear was going to have a very hard time digesting the Ukrainian porcupine.” I am praying that the Russian bear backs off in dismay, and respects the porcupine’s boundaries from now on.

February 25, 2022 Posted by | Books, ExPat Life, Interconnected, News, Political Issues | , , | 1 Comment

Praying for Peace and Freedom

Our Bishop sent out a message today relating to the invasion of the Ukraine; in it he refers us to Bishop Edmiston’s addressing war and churches:

Watch Bishop Edington’s video message

The Episcopal Church has been in Europe for more than two hundred years. Our churches have seen Europe’s wars unfold. They’ve lived and endured in the midst of the destruction and depravity that war brings.

Our parish here in Paris set up a field hospital during France’s war with Prussia in 1870 that treated wounded soldiers. Our parish in Munich created a clinic during World War I that treated wounded German soldiers and fed families who had no income.

And our churches here have been casualties of war. A church of the Convocation worshipped in Dresden, Germany, until it was destroyed by bombing. Our parish in Munich was closed by the Gestapo in 1942, and its library of eight thousand books was burned.

Most of our churches here were closed during the Second World War. And our cathedral in Paris was used as a military chapel by the occupying German forces.

Perhaps more than any other part of the Episcopal Church, our churches in Europe have lived through the horrors of war—and the pointlessness of war, too. The cathedral’s cloister, a memorial to the dead of the twentieth century’s wars in Europe, is our silent testimony to that truth.

And for a long time—almost eighty years—we have believed that the futility of war was enough to deter it. Today, with war unleashed in Ukraine, we have been proven wrong.

Our faith teaches us that we must stand with the vulnerable and the oppressed. And at the same time, our faith teaches us that we are meant to be followers of the prince of peace, of the one who taught us that violence is always a compromise with evil.

It is hard for us to reconcile those two teachings today, when innocent people are dying at the hands of a military onslaught. Our prayers feel insufficient to defend those cowering in fear and exposed to bullets and bombs.

But we know that the place where war lives is in the human heart. As the prophet Jeremiah teaches us, the heart is devious above all else; and it is in the devices and desires of hearts resisting God’s call to live in love that the first seeds of war take root.

We often begin our prayers with the words “Almighty God.” But the deeper truth of our Christian faith is that we believe humanity has been redeemed, and the world forever changed, by an all-vulnerable God—a god whose love is finally victorious through the vulnerability of a naked man nailed to a cross. It is from that seeming defeat that the victory over death and sin is won forever—even the sin that lies at the heart of war.

And so as we begin our season of Lent, we are called to give up our easy complacency about the durability of peace. We are called to consider again the reminders in our midst of war’s relentless cost to human life and God’s hope. And we are called to pray, and speak, and to labor for the truth that Christ has called us to transform this broken world through the hard work of love.

God of timelessness,

From chaos and disorder 

you brought forth the beauty of creation;

From the chaos of war and violence

Bring forth the beauty of peace.

God of compassion

You saw the humanity of the outcast and the stranger;

Help us to see the evils of our hatreds and suspicions

and to turn them into the embrace of your Beloved Community.

God of peace,

Through your love on the cross

You overcame the power of violence and death;

Turn us away from the love of power

That we may transform a warring world

through the power of your love. Amen.

 

The Rt. Rev. Mark D. W. Edington

Bishop in Charge

The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe

February 25, 2022 Posted by | Civility, Political Issues | , | Leave a comment

Going Postal

We have a great insurance company who sent us this notice this morning:

USAA is a government-friendly organization, providing insurance to people associated with the military. They have a first-class reputation.

It is a sad day when even government-friendly conservative organizations have to take notice of the disgusting failure of our current postal leadership.

As we were growing up, living in Alaska and in foreign countries, we had opportunities to compare our system to others. Americans put a priority on getting the mail delivered in a timely manner and at a reasonable cost. Other nations admired our efficiency, and our emphasis on the public service our postal system provided to the American people.

We need to get back to these very public-service-oriented values. The postal system is worth subsidizing to provide valuable services to citizens of the United States of America.

December 13, 2021 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Values, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Tales from Before the Blog

Tonight we were eating Indian food, and talking about some of the truly great Indian restaurants where we had eaten in Doha. Our two favorite had separate veg and meat sections, and one, The Garden, even had them on two separate floors. The other, the Welcome, was a wonderful place, a place I would never dare to take my mother but a place we often went with friends. Once, we took another couple we liked, and we started with chots and dosas, and then ordered entrees. When the bill came, AdventureMan picked up and the other man objected – but only momentarily; AdventureMan showed him the total bill was 44 Qatari Dinar – somewhere around ten dollars.

Both The Welcome restaurant and the Garden were torn down to make way for a grand new walking street going down to the Souq al Waqif. We never saw prices like that again, or that kind of Indian-comfort-food-at-low-prices.

In these times, people still rode camels while racing.

One story led to another.

“Take Her! Take Her!”

AdventureMan preceded me to Doha; I stayed behind and packed out, found new renters for our apartment, sold my car and arranged for my diabetic cat to fly with me to Doha.

When I got to Doha, I showed the veterinary papers showing Morgaine had the veterinary papers in order, but, as it turned out, I had not requested permission from the Qatar Department of Animal Health to bring in my cat, so I would have to leave her until I got permission. I discussed this politely with the customs official, a young soldier, and then I started pulling out my packets of syringes and vials of insulin, and I explained to him that she needed X amount of insulin injected at such and such a time, two times a day.

He looked at me in utter horror and said “Take her! Take her!” and I didn’t wait a single second but got everything back in my bag and walked out as fast as I could with my unpermitted cat. Things were easier then; there were always men with carts eager to take all your bags, so all I had to do was grab the cat and run.

Old Sharia Kharamaa / Electricity Street

“She’ll Have to Sign a Waiver”

No sooner had I arrived in Doha than a car showed up at my villa, a car I hadn’t requested nor chosen, but I guess the car I was meant to have. I had to learn to think in a whole new way. It was a really good thing I had the car because Operation Enduring Freedom was breaking out, and I knew I might not see my husband again for a while. He took an hour off the day after I arrived to show me where two grocery stores were; the one near us for the basics, and the French Carrefour, across town, but worth the drive.

But the company was horrified I wasn’t leaving. “We’ll pay your passage!” they said. “You can go anywhere! You don’t want to stay here, war is breaking out.”

I had just gotten to Doha. I was settling in. I had my abaya and scarf from our time in Saudi Arabia, and I knew the way to the airport; I could walk if I had to. My niece, Little Diamond, was coming to stay with me. We both spoke some Arabic, she spoke more than I did. I wasn’t afraid, and I didn’t want to leave.

“She’ll have to sign a waiver,” they told AdventureMan. I signed the waiver.

Dhows in the Center of Doha/ Carrefour in the background

There were some dangers. While the USA and allies were gearing up to help the Kuwaitis take back Kuwait from the Iraqis, not everyone was on board. We learned to alter our body language, to walk and speak quietly, not to draw any attention to ourselves. We did our shopping calmly and efficiently. Even so, on occasion there was an occasional shop clerk who might ignore me and refuse to wait on me, but those occasions were rare, and the occasions of great hospitality from local citizens were many.

I always asked permission before I would take a photo

The day the war started, my sweet cat died. She had problems breathing early in the day, so I took her to the vet. Going to the Vet in Doha was not like any going-to-the-vet I’ve ever experienced before; you go, you sign in, you sit, if there is a chair left, and you wait your turn. It doesn’t matter how sick your animal is. It was chaos. Many people got very emotional and wanted to be taken out of turn. When I got to see the vet, who was always very kind, he gave her a shot and said “Now she will feel better.” I told him I thought she was close to the end, and he said maybe or maybe not. I took her home.

About three hours later she came and lay next to me quietly and I knew she was saying goodbye. She started gasping again, so I put her n her cage and drove as quickly as I could to the vet, but it was Friday afternoon, the day everything closes for mid-day prayer, he was closed, and could not be reached. By the time I got home, she was dead.

So the war is starting, my cat has died and I am not in a rational place. AdventureMan called and my niece talked to him. I think she told him the cat had died and I thought there was a chance it might just be a fit and she might come back to life, which was true. AdventureMan came home, I don’t know how he did it, but he did, and we drove out to the desert and buried our cat. He brought me back home and went back to the base and I didn’t see him for a while, except on television; as the CNN reporter stood in front of a sign at the press center on base, my husband sauntered behind him and gave me a wave. We still laugh about how he took a break to bury our cat just when war was about to break out, but managed to get back in time for the opening. He showed up when it mattered.

Welcome to Doha.

August 1, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Biography, Bureaucracy, Circle of Life and Death, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Moving, Political Issues, Qatar, Restaurant, Stranger in a Strange Land | 4 Comments

Afghani Interpreters Begin Arriving

First group of evacuated Afghan interpreters arrives in US

from BBC News

(This morning, Adventureman’s heart is lighter. He is a Vietnam vet, and for many years has carried the guilt of our country having left behind so many people who worked with our forces so loyally, and suffered terribly when we pulled out. While we believe Afghanistan was not a winnable war (just look at history), he had anxiety that once again we would leave our allies behind.

We have a soft spot for Afghanistan. While we worked with the Department of State, way back before the Taliban, Afghanistan was considered by many to be a great post. The Afghani people were educated, and had a long and fascinating history. Afghani food is delicious. Day trips around Afghanistan opened people’s eyes to new ways of thinking and doing things. Even the Afghan clothing was comfortable and loose, perfect for the great heat of the summers. Friends who had served in Afghanistan shared wonderful stories and memories, and would gather for “Afghan Night” where they would prepare food for 100 of their best friends, of which we were honored to be included.

So to read that the first flight of interpreters and their families have arrived gave us great hope. Hope for a new group of citizens in our country who will work hard and share the gifts of their heritage, hope for their wives and daughters who we know to be amazing women, and hopes that one day there might be an Afghani restaurant in Pensacola!)

An Afghan interpreter with the U.S. Army's 4th squadron 2d Cavalry Regiment helps to question a villager
image captionAn Afghan interpreter with the US Army seen speaking with a villager

About 200 Afghan interpreters and their families have arrived in the US – the first of a group of 2,500 Afghans being evacuated as the Taliban advances.

The interpreters are being resettled under a visa programme for those who worked with the US during the recently ended 20-year war with the Taliban.

They arrived in the early hours of Friday morning and were taken to Fort Lee military base in Virginia.

They are expected to stay there for around a week while they are processed.

In a statement, US President Joe Biden called the arrivals “a milestone” and “the first of many” as US authorities work to relocate eligible Afghans out of harm’s way.

Afghans eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) will be transported either to the US, American facilities abroad or to third countries while they finish their applications. The most recent arrivals have already completed an extensive vetting process.

On Thursday, the US Senate approved more than $1bn (£719m) to pay for the evacuations, including housing and transportation.

The bill would also loosen applicant requirements and allow for 8,000 more visas in addition to the ones already allocated for.

The Taliban have been advancing Afghanistan following a decision by Mr Biden to withdraw the remaining American troops from the country.

With those advances have come danger to those who worked alongside US troops during the two-decade conflict.

Since 2008, approximately 70,000 Afghans have been resettled in the US on an SIV .

Last week, a senior state department official said that the total number of visa applicants now stands just over 20,000. About half have yet to complete the first steps of the process.

Those yet to go through the process face potential threats in attempting to secure a visa. Mike Jason, a former US Army battalion commander who was deployed to Afghanistan, told the BBC that travelling across Taliban-controlled areas with the documentation needed for SIVs puts interpreters in “mortal danger”.

“That’s basically an entire confession that you’re an interpreter working for the Americans. We’re asking them to travel with the evidence,” he said.

Not-for-profit group No One Left Behind estimates that at least 300 Afghans or their family members have been killed for working with the US.

The Taliban were removed from power by the US-led invasion in 2001, following the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York.

Fighting between the insurgent Taliban and Afghan government forces has increased over the past two months as international troops pull out of the country.

July 31, 2021 Posted by | Afghanistan, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Leadership, Political Issues, Values, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment